Russ Jones of RL Jones Customhouse Brokers was named the 2022 Small Business Person of the Year by the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce at its Annual Dinner Gala and Chance Auction held Feb. 3.
The award was “pretty unexpected,” Jones told the Yuma Sun afterwards.
But it wasn’t a surprise to those in attendance, as noted by Jeff Byrd of 1st Bank Yuma, who sponsored the award.
“This year’s recipient really needs no introductions. He is a very well known person throughout the community. He became active in community efforts as a young man growing up in Calexico, California,” Byrd said.
After studying business administration at San Diego State University, Jones followed his father and grandfather’s footsteps in facilitating trade and commerce between the United States and Mexico. In the four decades that Jones has been at the helm, his firm and its sister companies have expanded into warehousing, freight forwarding, logistics, property management and insurance services. They now have offices throughout California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.
“This year’s recipient is also well known for his philanthropy,” Byrd noted.
Jones, along with his wife Janet, recently received the Philanthropist of the Year Award, He is the past chair for the US-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership Group, a founder of the Arizona Community Foundation, a member of numerous other civic and philanthropic groups, including the Civil Air Patrol.
“Heck, I could go on all day,” quipped Byrd as he listed Jones’ numerous community contributions.
In accepting the award, Jones expressed appreciation to God, his wife, son Eric Jones and daughter Shelley Mellon.
“The good Lord has been very, very good to me and my family and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, my bride, my son, my daughter, carrying on in the trenches. That’s the fourth generation and, hopefully, God willing, there will be a fifth and many more that help serve this community and this country. Thank you very much,” he said.
“Just wow. Pretty unexpected,” Jones told the Yuma Sun when asked how he felt. “As with most of the other folks, if not all of the other folks that were awardees tonight and in the past, I don’t think any of them were looking for thank yous or atta girls, atta boys. You just do it because it needs to get done. Very, very honored and grateful.”
Asked about the perks and challenges of owning a business, Jones said: “Having a business, yes, it’s a challenge, but it’s fun, it’s rewarding,” he said. “But the challenges can be, we have economic upturns and downturns, and in my case, international issues between Mexico and the United States. It can fluctuate and it becomes a daily challenge, but it’s a daily blessing as well.”
Asked what advice he would give new business owners or somebody thinking of starting in business, Jones said: “Never compromise your values and never be too proud to seek advice and help that you might need.”
The history of RL Jones Customhouse Broker goes back to 1937 when Earl D. Roberts was filling out insurance forms and someone asked for help with customs forms. He obliged, and then more people started asking for his help with customs documents.
Customs officials caught wind and told Roberts he needed a license to do what he was doing. They gave him a book to study and then later asked him a few questions. He got them right, and they handed him a license.
In this way Roberts inadvertently started his customs brokerage company which today is called RL Jones Customs Brokers, named after his son-in-law, Richard L. Jones, who later took over the business. Russ Jones joined his father’s firm in 1974.
Russ Jones also served as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 2005 until 2013. In that role, he focused on issues of agriculture, water, border security and natural resources.
He has been involved with numerous charitable groups, aside from those already mentioned, including Alpha Phi Omega, Boy Scouts of America, San Luis “Frontera” Rotary Club and the Arizona Western College Foundation Board as a former vice president.